The History of Most Precious Blood Church, Hyde Park. MA,
USA -- published 1981; Chapter III.
Monsignor James J. Chittick 1888-1919
With the departure of the dynamic Father Barry, the popular
founder of Most Precious Blood Parish and St. Raphael's School,
there came to Hyde Park as pastor, a priestly gentlemen of
diverse talents and extraordinary zeal, who was to guide the
spiritual and temporal affairs of the Parish for no less than
31 years -- Father (later Monsignor) James J. Chittick. He
arrived in Hyde Park on October 14, 1888, having previously
served for four years as pastor of St. Peter's Parish in Plymouth,
and, before that, for nine years as assistant to the famous
Father Peter Ronan of St. Peter's Parish in Dorchester.
Born in Boston on December 13, 1850, James Chittick attended
local public schools, entered St. Joseph's Seminary in Troy,
New York, in 1869, and was ordained to the priesthood there
by Bishop Francis McNeirny of Albany on December 20, 1873.
His ministry to the people of Most Precious Blood Parish and
his dedication to St. Raphael's School for more than three
decades made him one of the most beloved pastors in the history
of the Archdiocese of Boston.
An outstanding spiritual leader, Monsignor Chittick was ever
a champion of the rights of the common man, and a fearless,
lifelong fighter for the cause of Ireland. Since a large percentage
of his flock was of Irish origin and formed the bulwark of
his rapidly growing parish, he spared no effort in furthering
the crusade for Irish freedom. In this connection one recalls
that shortly before his death in 1919, a missive Pro-Ireland
meeting was planned for Magnolia Hall in Hyde Park. He was
invited to address the huge gathering, and being a dutiful
priest he sought permission from his Archbishop, William Cardinal
O'Connell. Not only was permission gladly given, but he was
encouraged by the Cardinal to speak strongly and forcefully
in behalf of the Irish cause.
Monsignor Chittick had an extraordinary devotion and charity
toward the poor of the town, and he was genuinely respected
and loved, not only by his own people but by members of the
Protestant and Jewish communities also. He was known in more
than one instance to have given the coat off his back to some
unfortunate. Though kindly by nature, he could administer
a reprimand, when necessary, and become thoroughly aroused
if the occasion demanded it. In 1912, e.g., when excited discussions
were the order of the day regarding possible annexation of
the Hyde Park to the City of Boston (then the fourth largest
metropolis in America), the issue was put to a referendum
vote in the annual election. A non-Catholic clergyman in the
town had urged his people to vote against the annexation because,
he said, it would result in being dominated by the growing
Irish Catholic population of the City of Boston. Apprised
of this attack, Father Chittick spoke at all the Masses on
a subsequent Sunday, urging an affirmative vote for annexation.
In the year 1912 Hyde Park became part of the City of Boston.
With regard to the nascent school built by Father Barry,
its growth and development were prodigious. So engrossed was
Father Chittick in educating his youngsters, that for eleven
years he operated a high school for girls, in addition to
the grammar school and the area schools in Readville and Corriganville.
Room space in the convent had to be made available for this
ambitious project, and he himself often devoted four hours
a day to teaching in this school. Particularly helpful to
Father Chittick in the operation of the school was a young
curate who came to Hyde Park shortly after ordination in 1889.
He was father George A. Lyons, who had been ordained in Rome
in June of that year, and who served faithfully in Hyde Park
for seventeen years. (Subsequently, he was appointed Archdiocesan
Superintendent of Schools and become very prominent in the
field of Catholic education. He died as pastor of Gate of
Heaven Parish in South Boston. His brother was the celebrated
Jesuit educator, Father Charles Lyons, S.J., president of
Boston College and also of Georgetown.)
In 1891 Father Chittick spent several weeks in the hospital
administered by the Sisters of Charity in Louisville, Kentucky,
as he recuperated from a serious illness. To prepare for his
homecoming, Father Lyons was in charge of the parish during
his absence, raised $3,000 to present to the pastor on his
return. It was with this money that Father Chittick then purchased
land for the Corriganville school, which opened its doors
in 1896 and served the children of that area of Hyde Park
with great success both academically and spiritually. In fact
the school became a nursery for many of Hyde Park's priestly
and religious vocations. For most of it's existence this school
had five grades (six for a while), was a "feeder"
for the Central School, and, providentially, in 1954 became
the educational nucleus for the newly formed St. Pius X Parish
and briefly St. Pius X School.
In 1913 Cardinal O'Connell established a new parish in Hyde
Park -- a "national" parish, not a "territorial"
parish -- for the Polish speaking people of the area. Dedicated
to St. Adalbert, the parish had as its first pastor Father
Alexander Syski. A basement church was first erected, and
the superstructure was completed in 1931 while Father Ladislaus
A. Sikora was pastor.
In a comparatively limited work of this character, one could
hardly be expected to deal in detail with all the priests
who served in Most Precious Blood Parish. But tribute must
be paid to the many curates, or assistant pastors, who so
conscientiously and diligently exercised their apostolate
in Most Precious Blood Parish, especially in the work of preaching
the word of God and administering the Sacraments. Hyde Park
from the beginning down to the present day has been blessed
with dedicated curates.
Worthy of special mention is Father Francis H. Houston, who
had the distinction of being both a young man from the parish,
ordained in 1889 (his first Mass was offered in Most Precious
Blood Church), and also a curate in the parish from the fall
of 1901 to the summer of 1908. It was his older sister, Mary,
who was the first young lady of the parish to enter the religious
life, becoming a member of the Daughters of Charity at Emmitsburg,
Maryland, on January 13, 1883. Taking the name, Sister Mary
Theresa, she served for fifty-five years in religion.
Father Joseph V. Tracy (who was later to become a famous
pastor of St. Columbkille's Parish in Brighton), served with
Father Chittick for about six months, and Father Austin D.
Malley for about a year (1898-1899), but little is known about
the details of their ministry in Hyde Park. Father John J.
O'Brien replaced Father Lyons in 1906, and remained until
June of 1911, when he himself was replaced by Father Daniel
J. O'Conner. In the Summer of 1908 Father Houston was succeeded
by Father Edward J. Fraher. This brings us in our narrative
to this pair of devoted curates, known and loved by thousands
of Hyde Parkers still living, who worked so successfully in
their priestly ministrations, under three pastors, all the
way down to 1927, when they were transferred from Hyde Park
within a month of each other.
In the summer and fall of 1909 Father Chittick replaced the
original school that had been built in 1888, with a new 16-room
school. The actual construction with all the appurtenances
was not completely finished for several years, but it did
serve the ever-growing number of pupils, and provide a more
fitting site for continuing academic and spiritual excellence.
In 1912 Father Chittick supervised the building of a much
needed rectory, which serves the priests and the parish to
the present day.
In recognition of his tireless apostolic labors, Father Chittick
was raised to the rank of a Domestic Prelate on May 27, 1914,
and became the Right Reverend Monsignor James J. Chittick.
This was an occasion of unparalleled joy and pride for the
people of Hyde Park. This man of God, said to have known by
name about 90 percent of his parishioners, was a familiar
sight in the town as he went about his pastoral errands of
mercy with his horse and buggy. The horse was well named "Mercy"
by reason of the nature of the priest's chief apostolate.
But Monsignor Chittick likewise served as an unofficial but
vigilant "truant officer", much to the discomfort
of young people who might be avoiding their obligation of
Mention has been made previously of the long line of scholarship
winners from St. Raphael's School in the Boston College High
School competition beginning in 1908. Prior to that time,
from 1902 to 1908, the Archbishop had inaugurated a series
of examinations for all parochial schools in the Archdiocese,
in which contest both boys and girls were eligible. In the
first year three of the four winners were from St. Raphael's
School (Joseph Gaynor, Thomas Cullen, and Nellie Fennessy,
who later became Sister Mary David of Presentation Academy
in Louisville). It is interesting to note, too, that in the
Boston College High School examinations of 1908, three scholarships
were won by our students (Grover Tolland, Martin Padden and
Joseph Dooley). In 1932 Grover Tolland's son (now Father Cyril
E. Tolland) and his cousin, Fred Kinsman, won the Boston College
High School scholarships. One of the three local winners in
1909 was Michael J. Walsh, currently a member of Most Precious
Blood Parish, formerly the president of the St. Vincent de
Paul Society, and the recipient of an honorary degree of Doctor
of Letters from Boston College in 1977.
In September of 1919, while making his annual retreat, Monsignor
Chittick was stricken with a serious illness, and after five
weeks of confinement, during which he exhibited great patience
and devotion to our crucified Savior, he departed this life
on the First Friday of November. William Cardinal O'Connell
presided at the very impressive Solemn Funeral High Mass on
November 11, 1919. Hundreds of priests, religious and lay
persons crowded the church, while hundreds of others remained
on the sidewalks outside, testifying to their love and veneration
for this holy man who had so faithfully guided Most Precious
Blood parish for 31 years. The eulogist, one of Monsignor's
Chittick's dear friends and also his successor, was Father
James F. Stanton, pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish of
Shortly after Monsignor Chittick's death, the grateful parishioners,
in his loving memory, contributed more than $8,000 for the
beautiful Connick transept window which was installed on the
Gospel side of the upper church. The local Council of the
Knights of Columbus, to which he was so dedicated as its chaplain,
changed it's name from Magnolia Council to Monsignor James
J. Chittick Council. A public school in the Rugby district
and a street in Corriganville also bear his name.
Administrator, builder, educator, pastor, and a true alter
Christus was the beloved Monsignor Chittick, who, in three
decades of priestly service, transformed the quiet rustic
community of 1888 into on the the most active parishes in
the entire Archdiocese.
Robert Johnson-Lally (09.12.2002) by Denny Chittick.
Archdiocese of Boston.
2121 Commonwealth Ave.
Brighton, MA 02135